Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Things to Cook soon

Semolina - is semolina actually nice ??

Homemade rice pudding


Blackberry Jumble (I need an excuse to go Blackberry picking)


Croissants / Danish Pastries (maple and pecan anyone ?) (Never made these - what a challenge!)


Christmas Pudding

Mincemeat (for Mince Pies of course)

Christmas Cake

Once the marathon is over next weekend I will make a start !

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ironing and Clutter and Stuff

When Ella from Notes from Home made a call this week for her Friday Carnival to be about clutter, I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

You see, since CC started training for her 11+ (and yes, I do mean training), and then I started training for  my marathon (its in about ten days now-eek!), and in between all that we replaced all of the windows in the house, and whilst we are away for my marathon, the whole house will be painted, necessitating a lot of pre-painting house maintenance - you can see that there will not be much time for organising clutter. Did I mention I work 32 hours a week with a 2hr daily commute ? When am I supposed to organise ? In my sleep ? I'm laughing to myself right now because I am thinking about the new film with Sarah Jessica-Parker (that I plan to see on Friday), where she cannot sleep and you see her writing her mental lists along the walls, as she goes through all of the items on her 'to-do' list. I guess I'm a bit like that.

You know what, I don't have a problem with clutter per se, but I do have a problem  with firstly, not being able to find things, and secondly, with things being clean (relatively). I think we all have different tolerance levels in these areas. I have one friend with two children whose home, through my eyes, is like a show home. It is lovely, but I know that we could not live like that. Likewise, she could not sit and type as I am now in eye-shot of the biggest pile or ironing that I think I have ever seen. No joke.

Which links in nicely with the cleaning/ironing/clutter thing. The reason the ironing pile is SO large, well it's not a high priority to be honest, also I would rather have clean ironing waiting to  done than dirty clothes festering away all week. I know some people have a 'wash day' where they wash, dry, iron, put away all in one day, but I could not have dirty clothes around for a week. I just couldn't. We also get through a lot of clothes with work clothes, casual clothes, running clothes, yoga clothes, swimming towels. I would be drowning under it all in no time. It's not like I don't iron, it's just that at the moment it barely makes a dent... Ho hum... My mother-in-law used to do my ironing, mainly to occupy her time after my father-in-law, the love of her life, passed away, but I'm a control freak and shipping my clothes to her house was a real pain. I was so ungrateful, but grateful at the same time. My work tops were OCD-origami-folded when I'm a hang-it-up freak, so sometimes 'ironed' clothes would have to go straight back on the ironing pile to be re-ironed at a later date. Or, items would be ironed not inside out, leaving iron marks on them, which I could not then wear to work. Straight back in the washng machine with them! In the end, I would filter out my clothes, and just send BB's and CC's because I felt so guilty about the origami folding and the iron marks and the wasting of someone else's time. It was a relief if I'm honest when MIL said she didn't want to iron any more. First, my guilt was gone, and most importantly it meant MIL was finding new friends.

I mentioned earlier that I have a problem with not being able to find things, it drives me crazy trying to find things, so I do believe that everything should have it's place. I know some people that have pared their homes to nothing, got rid of possesssions and books and trinkets, and clutter, but I like my things and my books, and I don't want to get rid of them. BB likes his running and triathlon magazines, and his bikes (we have quite a few bikes, CC has 3 alone, and now BB wants a new mountain bike!) but generally I know where most things are most of the time, which works for me.

One tip I can offer, which I don't yet practise, but I will do when I next organise my linen cupboard(!) is from a friend who is mega-organized with an immaculate home, she folds her bedding sets and places them in one of the pillow cases, then when she comes to make a bed she just has to pull out the pillow case and everything she needs is neatly folded inside. No crazily searching for matching pillow cases and the like, and that sounds good to me.

Some of you may know that we have a lovely house in France (well, it will be lovely one day), and I am trying to not let that get cluttered and so far winning the big fight. This does mean though that whenever I return from there, I start a new 'Things to take to France' pile, and then there's my 'Things I plan to eBay pile'. My house sounds like a nightmare doesn't it. It's not as bad as it sounds.

My final tip dear friends is do not procrastinate, if you have decided to declutter or get rid of something then do not procrastinate over it, sell it, recycle it, bin it and get rid of it.

Keep the things you love, and love the things you have.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Friday club - Finding time to blog

This week's Friday Carnival from Notes from home is all about finding time to blog and how one manages the life/bloggy balance. Of course this piece was supposed to be submitted to Notes from home on Friday before noon and now it's Saturday at 7.30. There's another deadline biting the dust - let's face it, I'd make a really sh*t journalist wouldn't I!

To put things in perspective, and I guess to answer the question put in the Friday Carnival, let's have little look at what I've been doing since Friday when this was due in.

0530 - Rise and shi--iinne !

0700- 1300 - Work - I'm a computer analyst. I did contemplate going out for a Thai lunch with a team that are visiting, but as I knew I had a lot on, I declined the lovely offer - and I really like Thai food too...Shame.

1300-1400 - Travel home on train, lunch is a wrap (a la Boots) eaten on train. All the better to be ready for...

1400 - 1730 Reached home and started loading tip rubbish into the car. This consisted of such items as my old herb box which was rotting, another veg box that was rotting, a very large rose bush that I had cut down previously (Owch, those thorns!), other garden waste. All of this was sitting in the drive situated between mine and my neighbour's house ..I have a Kia Sedona MPV, and it was full. All the big, burly men at the tip and not one offered to help. Ho hum.

Straight from the tip, yes, covered in dust, which I brushed off it's off to the bi-weekly shop to the supermarket. Fun.

1730- Got home, the fridge was getting embarrassingly grubby, so I emptied it and cleaned it before putting the shopping away. Fortunately, little CC had ballet after school, so she was being taken to the home of another mom after school, and was not due home until 1830. Next week it will be my turn to do the ballet run.

1830 - Shopping finally away and CC home, showed Chrissy my lovely new windows and chatted a while.
1845 - Sent CC to get changed for swimming, briefly discussed her day/dancing/homework/letters home etc.

1900 - 1915 BB home. BB and CC leave for swimming

1915 - Dinner for one - Fresh pasta which takes one minute to boil with some broccoli and grated cheese. Quite nice actually.

1930 - 2030 Changed to go to cinema with neighbour. We watched a hilarious new film and had a catch up on life in general.We always have a little chat in the car when we get back. Sweet.

2320 - Home and bed.

I don't think I need to even talk about today in great detail, yesterday was bad enough. suffice to say it has involved tutors, mothers-in-law, paint choosing and garage painting and ironing. I'm so pooped I can actually barely write. You can only imagine how much I am looking forward to my 2hr run tomorrow. Actually, truth be told I am looking forward to it, but only because I bought the new Adele CD today which BB is going to copy to my i-pod before tomorrow. That, and the fact that I only have to run for 2 hours :o)

So there was I these last few days, thinking in between all this how fun it would be explaining my blog/life balance, and how ironic it was that I couldn't actually even get it done on time. Typical ! Then I was going to email Ella and ask her, plead and beg, and see if she wouldn't mind maybe adding my post as an addendum to her list.

Then I saw on Ella's 'call for submissions' that instead of Friday, the call for submissions had been delayed to the weekend 'due to household illness'. I hope no one is seriously ill and send good wishes for a speedy recovery. And I can't help thinking how fate has meant my submission will now be included, and we are all just trying to balance it out and do our best.

Just finally I wanted to say that I love writing, I love reading, too and I love writing my blog, and even though I've only got a couple of followers, and I don't get that many hits, writing the blog has a huge impact on my life. I love writing, there's no way I could give it up. I think the blog means more to me than I have previously realised. I just wish I had more time to write more and further develop the blog. So many ideas and so little time..


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Should I gain weight in marathon training ?

I weigh more now than before I started my marathon training about ten weeks ago. Considering I now run 4 times a week and do yoga twice a week, and once a week I even cycle to yoga - how is it then that the scales are 3 to 4 pounds heavier ??

Well, it could be that my diet consists of chocolate brownies, preceded by pizza all washed down with a couple of glasses of white.. (I ran out of red ..) Really, I'm not that bad diet-wise but yes, I do have a fondness for wine and pizza and chocolate, but I also eat cereal, bananas, fruit - ah, yes I quite like the odd bit of cheese too.

All that said though, it is certainly true that I am less of a wobble than ten weeks ago and my arms are nicely toned, I am building thighs of steel and my tum seems more toned too.

Just three minutes until I leave for yoga, when BB gets home. He and CC are swimming tonight for South London Harriers triathlon club, so it's a late night all round.

I can only hope that when the training is finished I will trim down weight-wise, although oddly I look better than before...

Explain that one !!

An update:

It's now November, the marathon was last month. I think the weight gain I mentioned above was something of a tipping point, because just before the marathon, literally the week before, my body became a lot leaner than ever before. It is still quite lean now. I had taken my measurements (arms, tum, thighs, waist, hips, calves) etc in May this year, and I re-measured just before the marathon. I had lost centimetres in all areas, just 1 or 2 in every area, except for, wait for it, yes, you guessed it, my calves, which I think grew by one centimeter.

So, if you do find yourself putting on  a little weight, stick with your nutrition and training plan and reassess later. Don't suddenly start changing your plan, because if you start eating too little, then you could find that you start to lack the energy to train, just as you are increasing your mileage.

Although I watch what I eat to a certain extent, as my training stepped up, I quite literally started to see my food as fuel, and I really needed to make sure the tank stayed full, even if it meant eating more than usual. If you're in the middle of a training plan, I would recommend ignoring the numbers on the scales for now (to a certain degree, of course), keep with the training, and listen to your body.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Emma's wedding cake

When my best friend Emma asked me to make her wedding cake earlier this year, I took a sharp intake of breath. Sure, I like making a cake, and OK, I've done a cake decorating course, and I know I've had a cake stall and made numerous Christmas cakes for my work friends for the last few years... BUT.. this was a wedding cake, for the mosts important day of Emma's life and would be on view by lots and lots of people.

After a few months, I persuaded Emma that I should make a croquembouche ( a French style wedding cake made of a pyramid of profiteroles all stuck together with teeth-cracking caramel ), which she could also serve to her guests as dessert. Was I absolutely mad ? Things hit a new level when I realised that I couldn't actually build the thing until the big day. To add to the pressure, CC was bridesmaid and we were driving the bridesmaids from Emma's new home to the wedding and back again to the reception.

Of course, I was petrified then that the croquembouche wasn't going to work, so just in case I made the little cake above. Emma wanted a cake for her new hubby James that she could take home and share with her family.

The cake consisted of 2 heart shaped cakes on heart-shaped cake boards. I filled the vanilla sponge cakes with  raspberry jam and iced them with ivory icing. I then sprayed them with an ivory lustre dust. They were decorated with an ivory satin ribbon around the base and I then stuck love heart sweets around the bottom edge.

The top tier was the same, except I filtered out all of the white loveheart sweets. Emma totally did not want a Bride and Groom cake topper, so I bought a silver love heart sweet imprinted with 'I love you' to go on the top.

I was really pleased with the final result, and although the croquembouche turned out to be amazing too, and went down fantastically well, I can't help but think that this cake with three tiers would have looked fabulous too. Next time (next time ????) I really must be more brave. :o)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Latest addition to my cookbook collection

You know me and my cookbooks by now - I love them all... and I just got a new one for my collection at the weekend.

CC and I have really been enjoying the TV show called The Great British Bake Off which is currently airing on BBC2, so when I saw the book on the shelf at WHSmith I just had to have a flick through. When you have as many baking books as I have it is difficult to find a book with original recipes, or recipes that I haven't tried before, but I was pleasantly surprised. I bought the book for the bargain price of £8.00 as I had a WHSmith 20% off voucher. Usually said vouchers end up in the bin,  but this one was lurking in my purse, so I got lucky there. I love a bargain.

This is what the book looks like:

Having a quick flick through, when/if I ever have the time I would like to make these:

Pg 21 - Mary's Coffee and Walnut Battenberg - a classic battenberg with a twist.

Pg 34 - Speckled Mocha Cake

Pg 53 - Double Chocolate Marbled Loaf Cake

Pg 60 - Mary's Brandy Snaps

Pg 64 - Almond Tuiles

Pg 97 - Mint Chocolate Macaroons

Pg 98 - Florentines

Pg 135 - Rum Babas

Pg 140 - Sticky Buns

Pg 162 - Spicy Chicken Pasties

Pg 173 - Three Cheese and Spinach Pie

Pg 174 - Mushroom and Gorgonzola Twists

Pg 204 - Tarte Tatin

Pg 240 - Paul's Iced Fingers

Pg 272 - Hot Lemon Curd Souffle

Pg 298 - Pannetone

Quite a lot there, isn't there ! Whilst these recipes sound delicious, they are all a little further out of my comfort zone than I would usually venture (says she who recently made a Croquembouche for a wedding party to serve 100-ha!). I'm not a pastry chef or someone who makes bread often. So I am looking forward to the 'technical challenge' as they call it on the show.

What cookbooks have you invested in lately, and more importantly, have you cooked anything from it yet ?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Friday Club

I came across this blog called Notes From Home and they have a cute thing called The Friday Club where you write about a certain subject once a week. It's meant for your child and this week it's called Things I want you to know about your Father you have to basically write 5 things for your child about their father.

So, this is for CC about my BB, her Dad...

1) Your Dad was not always a runner and triathlete! When we met he was a keen footballer, but that is it.

2) The relationship you have with your Dad is super-special. I am not as close to my Dad as you are to yours, and he is not as close to his other two daughters as he is to you.

3) Your Dad's favourite colour is blue.

4) Your Dad's favourite meal is lobster thermidor, but no one has ever made it for him.

5) Your Dad has kept all the little things you make him.

You also know he's my favourite person - as well as you. Go BB !

PS> Anyone reading this who does not usually read my blog: BB=Biscuit Boy and CC=Cupcake

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Run As you Feel

.. that's what it said for my four miles jog-a-rooney today. So, I ran like I was bursting for the loo, dog-tired with still-aching legs from Sunday, and wanting to go home. I'm not sure that's quite what the plan meant !

Even worse, I was supposed to do this run last night but never got round to it after going through a maths paper with CC and entertaining the window fitters with coffee and cookies, as one must... it got to 7pm and I hadn't even thought of dinner.

You may, dear reader, think I have given up cooking and photography altogether, but no, this past week I have made banana bread, chocolate brownies, and yes, I know it's a little early, but I have even made two Christmas puddings. Get me ! I've just had no time to post about any of it..

Tonight sees CC and BB going to their usual Wednesday evening swimming club. This now coincides with my yoga class, which means I will be cycling to and from the class, which is about 2 miles away/ Hey ! Couldn't I have just done that instead of the 4 mile run..????.  I am just hoping I won't be tooooo relaxed to cycle home.

Not a minute to spare then is there ? We have non-verbal reasoning to go through tonight, homework and reading to do, preparing for work and here I sit typing in my heart-rate monitor. Time to get on !!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

To Do List

What is it about a list? It's just so satisfying to get things out of your brain and on to a piece of paper isn't it ?

Well it is for me, otherwise those things can eat your brain as they go round and round.

The good news is folks, I got to the yoga class this morning. I was the only person there so I got a one-to-one lesson with Viv, the teacher. I managed to get some much needed leg stretches done which was the aim, so mission accompished there. I left feeling really relaxed, which made for a nice start to Saturday morning.
It has to be said that yoga is a great form of cross training for a runner. All that stretching and breathing control and relaxation. I definitely recommend it, and it's not easy. Well, I guess it's as difficult as you want it to be. Viv was great today when she said 'Work with your spirit, rather than your ego on this one'. Loved that. Over time yoga will greatly improve your flexibility.  Viv reminded me that I had not been to her class since March, and believe me I could feel it in the overall stiffness in my body. So, for the next month at least I will be going twice a week, as part of my 'marathon training'. That's one item off the 'To-Do list' and onto the 'Doing' list. Yippee!!

So what else is on that list? Well CC is back at school next week and usually at some point in the holidays I will go though the paperwork the school, or the dance club, or the swimming club has sent and have a cull ready for the new academic year.  It's a chance to fill my diary with school holiday dates for the next year, figure out when dance school starts etc. I haven't got round to this one yet so it's next on the list.

Tomorrow is my fifteen mile training run. I''m not looking forward to that. This afternoon I went for a 5 mile run as it told me to on my training plan. I didn't really feel like it, but it was OK, I took it easy in anticipation of the 15 tomorrow. I did 8.6km in 52:30. You know the more I look at my times for various training runs, the more I realise my marathon time is going to be really crappy. Does that matter ? Also, I am surprised that my training plan only ever gets to 15 miles and no higher. BB tells me that this is because it is a 12-week plan....

All I am thinking is how the hell am I going to cope with the other 11 miles ? If I only had to add 5 miles then OK, maybe 6 miles, that's only 10K right? But 11 miles ! So, if tomorrow takes 3 hours - how long is 26 miles going to take. Am I really looking at a 4hours+ marathon. In addition, Kielder is tough terrain, it's hilly.

Worst of all ? I just don't think I can face running more than 4 hours non stop.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Keep on running...

This marathon training is HARD work. Remind me why I signed up again ?? Last night BB didn't get home until 8pm which meant I couldn't go and do my 8 mile run until 8pm, which meant I didn't get home until 9.15pm, which meant we ate dinner at 9.45 and I ended up in bed at midnight ! With a 5.30 get up this morning I'm pretty shattered now. But at least I got the run done, which is one more tick on the training plan.

There was no running today it was a 'day of rest' - ha! Tomorrow is 5 miles which will be Ok, and then Sunday up to 15 miles, which is my longest run so far in my training - eek. Whilst I am noticing that my body is becoming a little more lean through the running, I am also noticing that my knees hurt. On the mental list of things to do this weekend is order a new pair of trainers. To save time shopping and trying on, and reduce risk of the trainers being 'wrong'. I will simply buy by mail order a known and loved brand and make/model. 

I usually run in Mizuno Wave trainers and I usually buy them from

These are looking pretty promising, and a reasonable price too, although there are more expensive Mizunos on there too. Sometimes, the motto 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' rings true, and this is one of those times.

So, if the knee pain is due to a lack of cushioning the new trainers will resolve that. My ankles are achy too, especially first thing in the morning... Tomorrow morning I am going to a yoga class, I am hoping that a good stretch will help with the ankles. I am also being really stupid about stretching after my runs and not doing much or any really. Considering I already have tights calves I am asking for trouble with the rest of my training and the race itself if I don't keep my muscles warm and stretched out.

Whilst I am loving collecting all the new kit - my ShockAbsorber bra is the best! The day is looming on the horizon, so if anyone has any last minute hints and tips, I would be grateful !